The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce will present a forum Thursday night with candidates for each of the four local contested races.
The chamber has extended invitations to each of the candidates for the at-large school board chairman, the board's 2nd District seat, the 1st District county commission seat and the open Augusta Judicial Circuit Superior Court judgeship.
The forum begins at 7 p.m. at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center at the Columbia County Library.
Mike Sleeper, the District 5 school board member and moderator of the forum, said he has tried to make the forum "candidate neutral" to give voters a fair assessment of the office-seekers.
In addition to opening statements, the candidates in each race will be allowed to question each other and will field questions from three neutral panelists.
Questions from the audience will not be accepted.
The panelists for the forum include Michael Ryan, the editorial page editor for The Augusta Chronicle; Barry Paschal, the publisher of The Columbia County News-Times; and an unnamed Columbia County public high school student.
Sleeper said he chose to include a high school student as a panelist for a simple reason.
"It's someone who will bring a completely different perspective, someone who is directly affected by every race," Sleeper said.
In particular, the two school board seats make a student's perspective and input valid, he said.
Because of the number of races and candidates, Sleeper said, the forum will have strict time limits.
At 7:05 p.m., District 1 county commission candidates Scott Nichols and Ron Thigpen will square off. They will be followed by school board District 2 candidates Mildred Blackburn and Cissy Hobbs. The third forum features at-large school board chairman candidates Regina Buccafusco, Lawrence Hammond and Lee Muns.
The forum will conclude with Superior Court judge candidates J. David Roper, Willie Saunders, Charles "Les" Wilkinson and William "Bill" Williams.
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